Do dogs deserve to live the BEST life? ARF, heck yeah! Thanks to the pandemic, more and more people have become dog pawrents, but unfortunately, this doesn’t necessarily mean that all dogs are in good homes. Sniff out 28 things people need to STOP doing to dogs!
As valued family members, dogs deserve to be treated with love, compassion, and utmost care. These days, dogs of all breeds and sizes dominate Instagram and TikTok feeds. From skateboarding Frenchies to rainbow-colored Poodle-hybrids to heart-melting toddler-hugging-doggie photoshoots, what people see online may be so attention-grabbing that it drives reposts or shares instantaneously. However, they rarely question if such acts are ethical or simply enjoyed by dogs themselves. Since dogs are loyal furry companions who love humans ARF-so-unconditionally, humans must get out of their “pack leader” mindset for once and ask themselves – am I doing this for myself or my dog?
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Here are 28 Things People Need to STOP Doing to Dogs IMMEDIATELY:
#1 Dye their hair
Whether you’re thinking of giving your dog’s bangs or tail a hint of purple OR tie-dying their body in support of some community event, please do NOT do it! Human hair dyes are toxic to animals, and “pet-safe” dyes are never guaranteed to be entirely safe. Even if your dog doesn’t suffer from an allergic reaction (or worse, external or internal burns), you are altering your dog’s hair color for your own amusement or the superficial attention of others. Essentially, you’re doing it for yourself and NOT your dog. Don’t be a selfish dog pawrent!
#2 Train them to do outrageous “tricks”
If you want to train your dog to do tricks, please make sure the “trick” is a natural behavioral act of your dog. Dogs don’t like to do anything that’s not in their nature. I mean, who does? An unnatural act can cause discomfort or even pain for your dog. Hence, I beg you not to force your dog into awkward positions for your enjoyment. Make sure you’ve seen the specific action exhibited by your dog at some point before training.
From walking on their hind legs to skateboarding, dogs have been taught to do stupid tricks that are completely unnatural to them. Such ridiculous, outrageous tricks are merely for human amusement or to garner social media attention. Please be the compassionate dog pawrent by always putting your dog’s welfare first and foremost. Disturbingly, many of these popular unnatural tricks often involve cruel and abusive training techniques. And, even if you only use positive reinforcement, you must recognize that dogs are NOT circus animals or entertainment props! Dogs don’t care if they become viral on IG or Tik Tok.
With that barked, teaching your dog new tricks can be a very rewarding bonding experience, but again – teach them tricks or acts that they already do naturally. Get my trick training guide here.
#3 “Punish” them
If you’re ever trying to “punish” your dog for an act that YOU deem “wrongful” (e.g. barking, relieving themselves inside the house, messing with the garbage while you’re away, and so forth), please reconsider your behavioral correction methods. “Punishing” a dog is not only cruel but largely ineffective. In a dog’s world, they don’t see “right” or “wrong.” Just because you start screaming hysterically at them for chewing up your brand-spankin’ new Air Jordans and subsequently locking them inside the closet or cage doesn’t mean that they understand what they did was “wrong.” Their pitiful stance of cowering down with their tail in between their legs only demonstrates how much they’re AFRAID of you. Yes, you – their closest family member, guardian, best friend, partner-in-crime, all of the above.
Likewise, the so-called “guilty” or “shameful” look on their faces when you arrive home to a pile of trash or poop is not an acknowledgment of their “wrongdoing.” Rather, it’s their fear of knowing what’s to come based on your reaction and body language. They’re simply affiliating your body language with the upcoming scene a.k.a. “punishment,” but they don’t actually understand that what they did was “wrong.” Hence, it certainly doesn’t prevent them from doing it again. All in all, negative reinforcement and punishment are outdated, inhumane, and ineffective ways to train dogs.
As a dog pawrent, you must recognize that dogs learn BEST through positive reinforcement, which is unquestionably the most humane and effective way for any type of dog training or behavioral “correction.” Instead of “punishing” them, you should completely ignore the “wrongful” act and reward them when they’re finally doing what you want them to do. For instance, if you want them to stop chewing on your slippers, then invest time into training your dog to chew on toys, not your slippers. Offer rewards through verbal praise, mouthwatering treats, and gentle strokes to demonstrate that you welcome a certain behavior or action whereas the “wrongful” act yields no ZERO attention or reward. Although it takes time, your dog will eventually learn the affiliation over time. Nonetheless, your patience and investment in training your dog will reap huge benefits!
#4 Hit them or use any type of physical force
Animal abuse is for cowards PERIOD. Not to mention it’s ILLEGAL in many countries and jurisdictions. Chances are animal abuse is illegal where you live (although much more needs to be done in the area of animal rights and protection laws). Sadly, the lack of law enforcement and penalty on the perpetrators has led to so many cases of unreported animal abuse around the world.
Regardless of the legality factor, you should NEVER exert force onto your dog. Hitting, kicking, or using any type of physical force on a dog shows how sick, cruel, and pathetic you are to exert harm on a defenseless being – an innocent being who deserves to be treated with compassion, love, and respect.
Again, PLEASE USE POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT to train your dog. If the undesired behavior persists, please consult a professional dog trainer or behavioral specialist. If you have children, do NOT teach your children that animal abuse or neglect is ever acceptable or normal, even in the form of punishment. The future of animal welfare is in the hands of children so let’s endorse humane treatment of animals, particularly dogs and cats who are beloved members of the family.
As dogs do not have a voice, we must not be silent bystanders. If you see someone abusing their dog (or any animal), please speak up and/or report it!
#5 Yank or jerk the leash on walks
Gently pulling the leash to direct your dog is generally acceptable, but aggressively yanking or jerking the leash is NOT. When the yanking or jerking of the leash utilizes a certain degree of force, you are HURTING your dog. It’s a form of abuse whether you recognize it or not. And, it’s 10X worse if you don’t have a choke-free harness on your dog.
We’ve all heard this way too often – never let dogs lead because they will think they’re the leader of the pack, which jeopardizes the superior human position as the “leader” or “master.” Humans are afraid of dogs “misbehaving” if they don’t establish their position of power right off the bat. Therefore, we often see humans aggressively yank or jerk the leash on walks to stop them from sniffing. Sadly, many humans just want their dogs to walk alongside them and obey all verbal commands as if they’re some programmed robot. Dogs aren’t robots! Surely, there must be more humane ways to train your dog to walk with you. Instead of yanking the leash, try luring them with irresistible treats!
#6 Yell at them
So, what if you don’t physically hurt your dog but can’t help but yell every time they do something “wrong,” say jump on the oak wood dining table or that vintage loveseat? While emotional abuse is technically not illegal, you should still STOP reprimanding your dog. Why? Because it’s still a form of abuse. Think about it – would you like it if your significant other or boss yelled at you every time you did something “wrong”? You’d feel pretty damaged emotionally and disconnected from that person. Yet dogs are no different. Dogs are capable of feeling human emotions.
Besides, yelling at your dog just doesn’t work. Like I barked earlier, you should use positive reinforcement (and positive reinforcement only) to train your dog or correct any behavior that YOU deem “undesirable.” Yelling at your dog only SCARES and CONFUSES your dog – it’s largely ineffective in correcting the behavior. Bottom line – your dog won’t learn from it. They won’t understand why you’re yelling at them. It’ll make them terrified of you, stressed out by your negative energy (yes, they can sense it), or perhaps confused by thinking that you’re getting excited for some reason.
Again, the best solution is to ignore your dog’s undesirable actions to teach them that such actions yield no attention or reward. If the situation requires immediate action, then speak to them in a calm and positive yet confident manner followed by rewards and praises when they finally do what you want them to do (e.g. when they get off the couch or let go of your slipper). Then, they will associate the specific action with something positive and worth doing! Furthermore, research suggests that yelling causes dogs long-term psychological stress and harm, and that reward-based training is always superior and ultimately better for your dog’s happiness. Therefore, I beg you to try PAWSITIVE ways to communicate with and train your dog.
#7 Let kids “play” with them
Dogs are NOT toys! Just because dogs are so freakin’ adorable doesn’t mean that they want to be “played” with. Dogs are sentient individuals who shouldn’t be carried, dragged, or chased around like toys. To foster a healthy relationship between kids and furry family members, please teach your kids how to recognize dog behavioral signs and respect a dog’s boundaries.
Parents often make excuses for a child’s unruly behavior rather than attempting to correct it. Contrary to popular belief, dogs and children aren’t always a good match for one another. Many dogs, especially Yorkies, tend NOT to get along with kids. Even if you find the pawfect breed that’s supposedly good with children, you still need to teach respect and boundaries to both parties.
Parents are quick to put a dog down for nipping at their child, but again, the truth is that dogs do NOT bite for no reason. Young children unknowingly or knowingly do distasteful things that dogs hate, from forcing hugs to carrying them around like a teddy bear to not knowing the proper way to pet. Although most dog bites are triggered by obnoxious kids who may or may not know any better, dogs ALWAYS bear the brunt of the punishment, which may mean getting put down in many cases. Seriously, how is that fair?? Children who do their fair share of harassing the family dog are rarely lectured or punished as animal abuse by children is merely seen as “innocent” play. Foster a healthy relationship by recognizing 16 things that dogs hate about children and learn what to teach children about animals.
And, getting a dog to “teach children responsibility” is a TERRIBLE idea. Dogs will inevitably suffer from neglect if the parents don’t step up to the plate.
#8 Constantly hug or carry them
Whether you have a small dog like a Yorkie or a big dog like a Weimaraner, dogs typically do NOT welcome hugs. Yet you don’t need to be a professional dog behaviorist or dog whisperer to recognize the signs of stress or discomfort when you hold a dog who doesn’t wish to be held. Such signs include (but are not limited to) struggling to escape, licking their nose (when food isn’t in sight), turning stiff or still with a tense look, yawning, and/or tilting back their ears. If your dog is trying to escape from your arms, please release him or her immediately to avoid distress or built-up tensions.
Despite a few exceptions, most dogs generally do NOT like hugs, especially from rough children who treat them like toys. For dogs, hugs are uncomfortable although they learn to tolerate them from familiar people. Most dogs, myself included, run away from hugs whenever possible – even from my beloved humans!
With that barked, I will snuggle up with my humans during sleepy time at my own will. Learn more about dogs & hugs HERE.
#9 Overdress them
Again, dogs are NOT toys! It has become quite a trend to dress up your dogs either just for fun or to celebrate any given holiday. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean dogs like getting dressed up. I can only bark that they are probably not as eager as you are to dress up like Simba from the Lion King. Although humans are easily in awe with cute costumes for their dogs, dogs wouldn’t dress up for fun if they had a choice. Ultimately, dogs don’t care about looking cute. If you love playing dress-up so much, go buy a Barbie or Ken doll instead.
Sure, it’s pawfectly fine to put a warm sweater or light rain jacket for protection OR even a simple, non-irritable costume for Halloween (well, only for a few hours tops) on your dog, but the line is crossed when you overdo it with an extravagant outfit (say denim jeans, a gigantic hat, sunglasses, or sneakers, etc.) that puts your dog in discomfort. Think about your dog’s well-being first and foremost and forget how those pictures will garner an exorbitant amount of “likes” on IG. How do you know if your dog is in discomfort? Well, you gotta learn how to read dog behavior signs!
#10 Make them pose for long photoshoots
Long, staged photo shoots are taxing and annoying for dogs who prefer NOT to sit still while you mess with the newest iPhone or overpriced Nikon for the right angle and lighting. My human LOVES taking pictures of me, but she will only stage quick 10 to 45-second photoshoots sparingly and “pays” me with lots of yummy treats before and after. She opts for more candid shots – as they show my natural state, candids are simply more fun and memorable.
#11 Deny them of exercise
Dogs need to engage in routine physical activity to stay healthy – both physically and mentally. People who don’t have “time” to walk their dogs should NOT have a dog. Sorry, taking your dog to the “backyard” does NOT constitute a walk. Don’t be lazy! Just like humans, dogs who exercise daily tend to be healthier and happier. Keep in mind that when you walk your dog routinely, you also take advantage of the health benefits along with special bonding time with your dog. Plus it gives you a chance to socialize with other dog pawrents as the dogs sniff each other out. All in all, it’s a WIN-WIN situation.
If you can’t commit to at least two, preferably three 30-minute walks (or longer, depending on the size of your dog) every single day, then please seek help from a dog walker, trusted neighbor, or family member.
#12 Forbid them from having some freedom
Dogs who enjoy more freedom live happier and healthier lives PERIOD. Every single dog is a unique living being with a distinct personality – get to know your dog rather than asserting your authority or control whenever possible. No dog should ever be crated or tethered (or held in solitary confinement or any way that restricts movement) for more than a few hours regularly. They are NOT “servants,” robots, or toys. Love them as they love you. Please allow your dogs to have some freedom by letting them go safely off-leash whenever possible, e.g. inside the house, dog parks, enclosed dog areas, or relatively safe or quiet neighborhoods. Plus, when dogs learn to walk safely off-leash outside with their humans, they tend to be more well-behaved (believe it or not) and subsequently enjoy a healthier relationship with their humans.
#13 Tether or chain them
Long-term tethering has devastating effects on dogs. Studies have shown that tethered or chained dogs are more likely to bite or be more aggressive than untethered ones. WOOF, it’s no mystery! As dogs are known to be protective of their territory, they resort to fighting a potential threat if they cannot physically run away. The most common incident you’ve probably heard is what makes the headlines, e.g. “A DOG BITES CHILD!” Children, either innocently or distastefully, who walk into a dog’s territory face danger because dogs perceive them as a threat. Please keep in mind that this is NOT the dog’s fault; as dogs are instinctively protective of their territory, tethering or restricting their movement only makes them even more guarded and resort to fighting. Discover the devastating impacts of tethering a dog.
#14 Leave them “outside” or in the backyard
Dogs should live INSIDE with humans with daily opportunities for outdoor play and exercise. If you refuse to let your dog live inside the house, then you should NOT have a dog in the first place. It’s cruel to keep a dog outside – tethered or untethered (keep in mind that tethering your dog is illegal in many states). While dogs love outdoor playtime, they should not spend the majority of their lives outside. Out of sight and out of mind, these outdoor or “backyard” dogs not only suffer from neglect but also face health risks and danger. Learn more about the cruelty behind keeping dogs outside.
#15 Crate them regularly for more than 6 consecutive hours
Do you really believe dogs “love” their crates? As a former crated dog, I’ll be the first to bark that dogs should never spend the majority of their lives in crates. No matter how you want to justify it, crates are cages PERIOD. If you plan on crating your dog for more than 6 to 8 hours TOPS daily, then you should NOT have a dog. Since puppies cannot “hold it” for more than 1-2 hours (if at all), they should only be crated for a few hours at most, depending on their age. Despite being a widely accepted potty training technique, crate training easily (and frequently) crosses into animal cruelty with potentially detrimental effects when dogs are crated regularly for excessive hours. In countries like Sweden and Finland, crating is even illegal unless done so for temporary reasons like transportation. Besides, there are more humane, effective ways to potty train your dog WITHOUT a crate.
#16 Smoke in front of them
GRRR, second-hand smoke KILLS. It’s not fair that your innocent dog will also suffer from second-hand smoke without any way of escaping. Just because you don’t mind shortening your life from smoking doesn’t mean your dog should pay the price as well. Dogs who are exposed to second-hand smoke long-term are prone to a host of issues, including but not limited to allergies, eye infections, respiratory conditions, and lung CANCER. If you love your dog, please don’t smoke in front of them!
If you’re traveling with your dog to a place (like Europe) where smokers are ubiquitous, sniff out my 5 tips on how to deal with second-hand smoke HERE.
#17 Prevent them from socializing
In addition to physical activity, dogs need to socialize with other dogs for their overall well-being. Socialization stimulates their mind, boosts self-esteem, and makes them feel comfortable and relaxed in the world they live in.
On any given day, I see dog pawrents crossing the street or jerking the leash to prevent their dogs (even the small ones) from crossing paths with me (when they clearly want to say hello). While I understand that there could be legitimate reasons why they don’t want their dogs to socialize (e.g. not yet vaccinated, tend to be aggressive with other dogs, currently in heat, etc.), I often come across many pawrents who don’t have a darn good reason except they simply don’t want their dogs to do so. It seems as though many feel the need to “be in control” by prohibiting them from socializing with others, walking even a single inch ahead of them, or heading in another direction.
When you deny a dog proper socialization, the dog suffers emotionally and psychologically. An unsocialized dog is prone to have a host of behavioral issues, such as anxiety, fear, and even aggression. A content dog is a well-socialized dog!
#18 Prevent them from sniffing longer
Sniffing is the dog’s primary way to learn about the world that they live in. It’s more than just reading the daily newspaper, but it’s about figuring out or making sense of how the world works. As a dog’s nose is enormously powerful with extra scent receptors, they are mentally stimulated through sniffing, or what I call, investigating. If your dog wants to stop and sniff for a few minutes or longer, please don’t yank the leash! Let your dog have a good sniff. Heck, sometimes an intriguing sniff will get me stuck for over 15-20 minutes! When you deprive them of a thorough sniff, you’re disallowing them to understand the environment around them. It’s the equivalent of humans not being able to utilize one of the five basic senses, say vision (the ability to look at what’s around you). Also, the more dogs are mentally stimulated, the more energy they’re shedding for a calmer day. And, of course, the happier and healthier they will be.
#19 Expect them to understand
Humans and dogs communicate differently because they are different species. Just because you bark out orders and expect them to obey doesn’t necessarily mean that they understand what YOU want. If you’re a new pawrent, don’t have such unrealistic expectations as you’ll get flustered with your dog, who will consequently suffer from your lack of patience. Instead, learn to read dog behavior signs and invest time into training your dog through positive reinforcement. That is the WIN-WIN solution to train your dog to understand what you want. As dogs can learn to read human behavior signs, they can affiliate the actions YOU desire with rewards. If your dog still fails to understand you, you must take accountability. It’s not that your dog is “dumb” or doesn’t “get it,” it’s because you haven’t done enough. Regardless of age, every dog can be trained – it just takes time and dedication. If you feel like you’ve truly exhausted your efforts, then please consult a professional dog trainer for help.
#20 Walk them while using the phone
Woof, here’s one of the easiest things you can stop doing to your dog immediately: STOP playing with your phone when you’re on a walk and pay attention! Whenever I’m out on my walks, I never fail to see humans walking their dogs AND staring into a smartphone at the same time. Trade social media updates or random texts with your coworker FOR some quality time with your furry best friends. Phone usage while walking is also a dangerous habit as you and your dogs can face hazardous risks due to your inattention. Whether you’re walking or playing ball with them, don’t check your phone and learn to live in the moment. Every moment with your dog is precious!
#21 Skip annual vet check-ups
It doesn’t matter if you have a senior geriatric dog like myself or a pawfectly healthy 2-year-old mutt – annual vet check-ups are a MUST. Taking your dog to see the veterinarian at least once a year can do wonders for your dog’s health and longevity. Early detection and preventive care can not only lengthen your dog’s life but also save you buttloads of money in the long run.
#22 Ignore signs of distress
Again, dogs are unique individuals who are capable of feeling human emotions, including pain, fear, anxiety, stress, grief, and happiness. Recognizing signs of both physical and emotional distress in dogs is crucial to providing them with the best life (as deserved). As a responsible dog pawrent, you need to act on it if you ever see your furry family member in distress – whether this means removing your obnoxious child from your stressed-out dog or calling the veterinarian if your dog hasn’t been eating. Depending on the situation, acting fast can save your dog from prolonged, unnecessary stress or physical pain.
#23 Treat them like “practice babies” or placeholders for human babies
Dogs are NOT “practice babies.” It’s common for young couples to give their all to furbabies (dogs and cats) until their “real” human baby arrives. In their justification, they are “practicing” how to take care of someone together; hence, the term “practice baby.” Disturbingly, such practice typically ends up in neglect and/or eventual surrender of the innocent animal when the stress of raising a human baby takes over. If you’ve ever worked with rescue organizations or shelters, you can attest that getting rid of a dog for a baby is a top reason for surrendering. If you can’t treat your furbabies as valuable, irreplaceable family members who are just as equally important as your human baby, then you don’t deserve to have them in the first place.
#24 Neglect their nails
When you don’t keep up with nail trimming on your dog, you may be contributing to unnecessary pain in your dog from overgrown nails. Besides pain, overgrown nails can also cause injury and stress. But don’t go running to Target to buy the first set of dog nail clippers you see – if you plan to do it yourself, you should research the steps thoroughly, watch HOW TO videos over and over, and know the ins and outs beforehand. Otherwise, your amateur nail trimming techniques can cause your dog even greater pain and injury. Alternatively, if you have a trusted groomer, you should take your dog in for professional nail trimming regularly.
ARF, that’s another reason why daily walks are so crucial – dogs like myself who are walked daily will naturally have trimmed nails (as our nails are always against the pavement).
#25 Over or under-bathe
Unlike humans, dogs don’t need daily or even weekly baths. Excessive bathing will dry out your dog’s hair, remove natural oils, and damage their coat. On the other hand, you don’t want to go through months without bathing your dog either. The rule of thumb is once every 3-4 weeks although this can vary based on your dog’s breed, coat, activity level, time spent outdoors, and health conditions. It’s best to check with a veterinarian who knows your dog’s history before establishing a timeframe.
#26 Use a collar
GRR, FORGET collars that wrap around your dog’s neck! ARF, choke-free harnesses are the way to go. Jerking the leash when your dog’s wearing a collar can cause damage to your dog’s neck and throat area over time, possibly creating thyroid issues, collapsed trachea (or the worsening of it), esophagus damage, neck sprains, and even nerve damage. Since harnesses cover a larger area of their body, it directly minimizes the strain on their neck, eliminates choking, and reduces pulling. Swapping a collar for a harness is an easy, effortless way to improve your dog’s quality of life, especially for Yorkies like me who are prone to the collapsed trachea.
Get your furry paws on my favorite choke-free harness HERE!
#27 Make them eat or drink out of dirty bowls
Bacterial properties can build up on unwashed bowls, which can cause illness in your dog. It’s not hard – just WASH all your dog’s bowls thoroughly every single day along with your dishes. As you prefer to eat off of clean plates, your dog deserves clean bowls too. 🙂
#28 Breed them
This world does NOT need another dog! According to the World Health Organization, there are more than 200 million stray dogs worldwide and this horrific number does NOT even reflect dogs living in shelters around the world. It is indisputable that the problem of dog overpopulation and homelessness is created by humans, not dogs themselves. Consistent breeding, abandonment, and irresponsible pet ownership throughout the years have directly caused hundreds of millions of dogs around the world to suffer and die each year. Even if you have homes for the whole litter of puppies, you’re still contributing to the problem of dog overpopulation. If you’re planning to add a dog to your family, please always consider adoption first. Sniff out why you should NOT buy a dog!
ARF, that’s all I got for my list of 28 Things People Need to STOP Doing to Dogs IMMEDIATELY! Got another item to add to the list? BARK AT ME!
Be the best dog pawrent and stop doing these things to dogs!
Markin’ it up,
Roger Wellington a.k.a. The Doob